Have you tried forest bathing? No, its not a joke or a fad. It does not require swimwear or a towel, only the desire to connect with nature, with the potential for an added benefit of improved mental health. The Japanese have been studying the benefits of forest bathing since the early 1980’s, especially as it relates to mental wellness.
In a Times article, Dr. Qing Li describes “Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere.” His book describes the process of being present in the woods and engaging all five of our senses. Forest bathing has gained international popularity in the last few years and Japan continues to be a leader in researching how humans can benefit from exposure in nature.
The definition of Mental Health varies, but mentalhealth.gov defines it as our “emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.” Even if we describe it differently, ultimately people believe it is vital in our lives. Mental health can be impacted by our nutrition, genetics, and relationships. People are now giving more credence to the fact that nature can also impact it.
Researchers are exploring factors that may play a role, such as if urban settings have the same impact as other forms of nature, and how outdoor playtime impacts the learning abilities of young children. Florence Williams, the author of The Nature Fix Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and more creative, travels through several countries, including Japan, Finland, and the United States, documenting research and getting historical and cultural background on human beings relationships with and within nature. And yes, forest bathing is also highlighted in this book (one of the first chapters, no less!).
As lovely as that sounds, you may not have plans to fly to Japan and explore one of the 30+ national parks ! That’s ok! Finding your own, local parks for a walk is a great way to get outdoors. Several US cities are recognizing the benefits of biking. Even Detroit, known as the motor city for its identity as a car-centric state, is paving the way for bikers. A social group that bikes regularly in the summer and fall, Slow Roll, is a great way to get outside and be social. Whether its forest-bathing, walking outside, biking or something else enjoyed outdoors, more and more research points to the benefits of spending time in nature.
“There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.” –Linda Hogan
Li, Qing. (2018, May 1). "‘Forest Bathing’ Is Great for Your Health. Here’s How to Do It. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/5259602/japanese-forest-bathing/
What is Mental Health?. (2017, August 29). Retrieved from
Williams, Florence. (2017). The Nature Fix Why Nature Makes us happier, healthier and more creative.
New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.